Most horror fans know that the Brothers Grimm were not collectors of cuddly, cute fairy tales, but anthologists of folklore, no matter how gruesome. And believe me, it got pretty gruesome… and more than a little weird.
Getting into the fairy tale spike of late, I picked up Grimm’s Grimmest. A collection of nineteen stories found in the 3rd Edition of “Kinder-und Hausmärchen” (Nursery & Household Tales) by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, first published in 1822 with the renditions of “Rapunzel” and “Aschenputtel” (The German version of “Cinderella”) from the 1st Edition in 1812. Grimm’s Grimmest is a fantastic collection for fans of horror, fairy tales, and history as well as those interested in the darker side of the human psyche.
Many of these stories will be new to the average reader. Each story has a twisted moral with violence, murder, vengeance, incest, and an array of horrors conveying a greater lesson. One such tale, “The Juniper Tree,” tells of a stepmother who decapitates her stepson, dismembers his body, and feeds it to the father out of jealousy and greed. Or the “The Girl Without Hands,” where a father cuts off his daughter’s hands to avoid the Devil. While not an easy read, this compilation is so admirable in that these stories are not, in the slightest bit, Anglicized. These stories show very much their pre-19th century origins as well as their Germanic heritage in their structure and form.
Grimm’s Grimmest is beautifully illustrated by Tracy Arah Dockray. The selection of ink illustrations are equal parts disturbing and whimsical without sparing sensibilities, even more so are the color illustrations in their vibrancy. With an introduction by translator and editor Maria Tatar, the insight to the predecessors of our modern horror culture are enlightening and entertaining. These stories are the foundation of our beloved genre, and for any horror academic a must read.